AEA Technology opened a £2 million research and development facility in Golspie in July to test technology for the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. It hopes to start operating a recycling facility based on the technology, with a capacity of "several hundred tonnes a year", in 2005.
Lithium-ion batteries - mainly used in mobile phones and laptop computers - are currently sent to France for incineration.
"The new recycling plant has the potential to become a strong, profitable niche business," says Andrew McCree, AEA Technology's group managing director. "It will be the only factory of its kind in Europe and we believe it will attract considerable interest as new environmental regulations take effect."
Under the WEEE Directive, lithium-ion batteries will have to be removed from laptops and mobile phones when they are disposed of. Around two million laptops will be scrapped in the UK in 2005, according to Intellect, the trade association for the electronics industry. Around 15 million mobile phones are replaced a year in the UK, although it is not known how many are scrapped.
Lithium-ion batteries also come under the proposed batteries Directive, expected to come into force in 2007, for which Britain has to recycle 160 grams per head of consumer batteries.